Buhari’s candidacy for 2019 elections seems laid out

By Alifa Daniel, Abuja bureau chief |   24 January 2017   |   3:58 am  

Atiku may opt for PDM, Kwankwaso still hopeful

Except he declines, there may be no stopping the President Muhammadu Buhari’s political train as the march towards picking a presidential candidate appears to have begun in earnest with quiet maneouvers expected to test the marriage of convenience of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

It is projected that the schemes and intrigues over who becomes the party’s standard bearer would come to the fore at the party national convention billed for not later than April this year.

Although the president is yet to state categorically whether or not he would be gunning for a second term in office, sources close to APC hinted that the convention would be used to ensure that all hurdles before him are cleared.

The President’s Special Adviser on Media, Mr. Femi Adesina, refused to be drawn into the fray of 2019 politics.

“No, no, if it is political, please call the party. You know that you have not heard from the President himself … political pundits are not the ones to put words in his mouth,” he said on phone yesterday.

APC spokesman, Mr. Bolaji Abdulahi announced that the decision to hold the convention was one of the outcomes of the National Working Committee (NWC) meeting chaired by the national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.

“The processes leading to the national convention will commence with the Congress to fill vacancies in the State Party structures across the country,” he said.

Abdulahi said further: “The vacancies to be filled occurred principally from political appointments, deaths and resignations. The congress to fill the vacancies would be followed closely by another congress to nominate delegates into the mid-term non-elective convention of the party.”

This has led political watchers and insiders to believe that the whistle for the race to state Government Houses and the Presidential Villa has commenced with different groups pushing to put their men in grassroot offices.

“The election of the delegates is a big deal whether or not it is for a non-elective convention, because it will be a test of strength for 2018 and all that culminates in the big one for 2019, either in the States or in Aso Rock Villa,” a source confided yesterday.

But the APC spokesman was vehement in denying that his statement had undertones for 2019, adding that those speculating and reading meanings into his statement were free to do so.

He maintained that the party was just fulfilling a constitutional obligation, adding that the delegates were going to be appointed and not elected.

His words: “It has nothing to do with 2019, we are just fulfilling a constitutional mandate, I am telling you the truth … Whatever people want to use it (the convention) for is left for them, but that is not the intention. A politician can see an opportunity and use it for whatever he wants to use it for. It is just a normal convention to look at the state of the party, to look at where we are. It is not about picking a candidate, even the delegates will be appointed; it is not that delegates will be elected where you will say that given the number of my delegates, I can measure the extent of my popularity, but since they will be appointed, it will have no indication for anything.”

Abdulahi reiterated that the congresses would be followed by the national caucus meeting, and finalized with the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party, which will consider and set the dates for the national convention.

In the North-West, those that are believed to be front-runners, should the President decline to continue on account of his age, or ill-health, are former Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who is in a supremacy battle with his former protégé and governor of Kano State, Abdulahi Umar Ganduje.

Ganduje, because of the perceived treachery of Kwankwaso, has warmed himself closer to the presidency; while Kwankwaso is believed to be angling for an alliance with another Governor, who curiously, has his eyes set for the centre should Buhari decline to contest. If this governor backs him and or he backs the governor, the coming APC convention would all the more be interesting.

Nasir El-Rufai, who has been thrown up as a possible successor has the home-front to contend with having been unable to dislodge his arch-political adversary, Senator Shehu Sani. Besides, what is happening in southern Kaduna makes him an unlikely choice since Christians in the North and southern part of the country would rather not come near him.

At the APC, he would need the zonal vice chairman of the party, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, who is said to be the right hand man of Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal. If he gets him, then he can quickly neutralize Sani and perhaps begin to regroup from there.

But observers argued that there is a snag, as Tambuwal cannot be trusted not to re-ignite his desire to be President of Nigeria, if it’s obvious Buhari will not contest.

The party’s convention, many contend, will be the execution ground for the re-jigging of the NWC, to tailor it to the desires that will culminate in who emerges as the party’s alternative candidate for the 2019 elections.

The APC’s NWC as presently constituted is a coalition of proxies and fronts for the party’s bigwigs. Its secretary is said to be the ‘eyes and the ears’ of Nigeria’s former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, arguably the most dreaded political strategist and player.

The zonal chairman of the North West (Abdulkadir) is a disciple of former Governor Aliyu Wammako of Sokoto State, as well as Tambuwal’s.

It is alleged that at the convention of the APC, Abdulkadir would be targeted to rein in an El-Rufai’s loyalist in the party and in turn, put the heat on Senator Sani.

The national treasurer of the party is believed to be a Kwankwaso ally, but Ganduje is determined to outs him to install his cohort as part of efforts to decimate his predecessor’s political dynasty. This definitely would gladden the powers at the Aso villa.

The coming on board of Abdulahi as the new spokesman of the party in place of the exited Lai Mohammed, afforded the Senate President, Bukola Saraki the opportunity to put his leg in the door.

With this admixture of political interests, it will be interesting to see how the APC convention pans out, even as South West strongman, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, appears to be moving off the stage, in what is seen as a strategy to midwife another coalition having been tactically sidelined.

Many have pointed out that Atiku remains easily the most formidable force against Buhari in the APC, but he has also not voiced his interest. Except for a political altercation with Kaduna governor, where the governor openly accused him of nursing a presidential ambition, nothing from his camp indicates an over-the-ground intention.

In addition, he has been fingered as orchestrating a crisis in the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) as he is said to be preparing to use it as a platform if the APC kitchen gets too hot for him.

Already, the PDM has called on Atiku to chest out and contest the 2019 presidential elections.

According to PDM promoter in the South East, Dr. Haroun Ajah, this was informed by the conviction that an Atiku presidency would be all-inclusive administration with Ndigbo at the commanding levels of Federal Government departments and agencies.

To actualize this dream, Ajah implored the national Caretaker Committee of PDM and the national leader, Ibrahim Gusau to ensure that only people with respect, courage, commitment and integrity emerge as leaders of the party in the forthcoming congresses and national convention.

“I call on the former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Turakin Adamawa to contest the next general elections. We are aware that the Turakin Adamawa is not a member of PDM party but certainly we all in the South East Nigeria and beyond will give him full support and cooperation on any platform, he Turakin Adamawa may wish to contest the next general election as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he stated.

One of his aides who did not want to be named, told The Guardian that his principal had already made his position known that it was too early to speculate on his ambition for 2019. He declined further comments.

APC chieftains, it was gathered, are not yet convinced of any available person who appeals to the mass of the people in the country, especially the north like President Buhari; and are not contemplating looking elsewhere for a candidate.

Analysts suggest that Atiku may swing in a different direction using another party platform, if and when the APC is sufficiently degraded as a result of the expected “battle of supremacy” over the nominations for the 2019 presidential election.

It is speculated that if APC is degraded, Mr. President along with his friends and followers would use the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) option under another guise, as a rallying point for the President.

A keen follower of events in APC explained that the choice of presidential “work men” to constantly use British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service, as the preferred channel by the President to reach out to the ordinary folks who are his, more or less, never-say-die supporters, was deliberate.

“They enjoy that he is making the political elite of the past sweat under their collar with the way he is chasing them to recoup stolen funds. They just love him for it because they believe he is helping to recover the stolen wealth that has put them where they are. He can do no wrong to them,” another added.

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